“Life was overwhelming and I didn’t want to continue living. I thought about dying and I would drive so fast, wishing I would have a car accident. My husband came to my rescue and advised me to seek professional help. I went to our doctor,” said the 35-year-old mother.

Some of Ngcamane symptoms included feeling hopeless, worthless and struggling to sleep. She also found it difficult to concentrate and lost interest in activities.

“After the diagnosis, my doctor prescribed medication to manage my condition and advised me to change my lifestyle and seek counselling. With my doctor’s advice and my husband’s unconditional love and support, I was able to seek outside professional counselling.”

Different symptoms

According to Esther van der Walt, a clinical psychologist, mental disorders comprise a broad range of problems with different symptoms.

“However, they are generally characterized by some combination of abnormal thoughts, emotions, behaviour and relationship with others. Examples are schizophrenia, depression, intellectual disabilities and disorders due to drug abuse. Most of these disorders can be successfully treated.”

Ngcamane was surprised at the reaction of her friends when she told them she had been diagnosed with depression. “Are you really crazy?” one friend asked. Another said it was not possible because “depression is only for white people”.

“My father said it was caused by witchcraft and my only hope for a cure was traditional medicine. I was hurt by their responses. I was hoping for support but instead received ignorance.”   

According to the World Health Organisation, depression is the most common illness worldwide with about 350-million people affected by it.

Ngcamane joined a support group for people with depression.

“Joining the group has helped me. It has become easier to share my thoughts with other people without feeling ashamed. We encourage each other. I know that depression is a condition that can be managed with treatment – and support,” she said.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.